The Awesome Leader Blog

I write about anything that can help leaders gain a snappy, specific set of skills for managing up and managing teams.

It's Not About Perfection

Anyone remember this game?

A few years ago, my mom was going through my "things" (what she calls stuff in my childhood bedroom), and she brought me a bag of junk (what I call that stuff). And in that bag was the game of Perfection.

I have it in my office now. I just played it earlier this week (literally and symbolically).

I reminded myself how much I despise the game yet secretly love the name and love the ambition of perfection.

The race against the clicking clock to get all those pieces in the right places before the whole thing goes "POP!"

Many days I feel as if I’m going to pop.

Is it because I’m racing towards perfection? I don’t so think, but I do know I'm trying to put lots of pieces into tiny holes all over, and I feel rushed and confused.

The holes are (now) smaller, they look and feel strange, and they are harder to find. And the time is loud, clicking by. It's like a nightmare inspired by the game of Perfection . . . POP.

And some days, I do it. I pop.

Alone in...


A Webinar with Shellye Archambeau

Uncategorized Oct 08, 2020
Join Me for a Webinar with Shellye Archambeau, Author of Unapologetically Ambitious.
Hello everyone,

Today I'm reaching out with a short but important note: an invitation to join me for a special webinar on October 20 at 8 am PT with Shellye Archambeau, Fortune 500 board member, former CEO of MetricStream, advisor, and author.

Shellye is the author of Unapologetically Ambitious, which was just released this week.

In her book, Shellye draws on her compelling story of over 30 years of experience in technology. She was high tech's first African American CEO, and she currently serves on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and okta.

Shellye is also a Forbes contributor and the protagonist of the Harvard Business School Case Study: Becoming a CEO. (OK, featured in an HBR case study?! Wow, right?)

I hope you'll join us on October 20 at 8 am PT as we talk with Shellye about:

  • Managing imposter...

Join Me For a Webinar with Shelley Osborne

Uncategorized Sep 22, 2020

Join Me for a Webinar with Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy & Author of The Upskilling Imperative

Hello everyone,

First, an invitation to join me for a special webinar onSeptember 29 at 8 am PT with Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy.

Shelley is the author of The Upskilling Imperative, and she'll share ideas about how to provide continuous learning for your team members, your company, and you.

I'm a big Udemy fan. I have two workshops on the Udemy for Business platform, one on EQ and another on Goal Setting. In 18 months, I've helped 26,000 students develop their EQ and plan SMART goals.

The message is clear: people want to learn online and do it on their time.

In this webinar on September 29, Shelley will discuss how to turn feedback into fuel, how to think like a marketer, how to put learning into the flow of work, and more.

Webinar participants will receive a self-evaluation (sent the day before) to pinpoint where they and their...


I Make the Rules

leading Sep 08, 2020
Make More Rules

I’ve always prided myself as a rule follower. Somewhat to the extreme.

I have trouble crossing the street when the walk sign is off. Even if there are no cars around.

Here’s my thinking. The idea of breaking a rule that’s been put in place to protect me, to keep traffic flowing (pre-COVID-19 you had places to be on time, right?), and—big-picture thinking—to help us all get along, well, that would be wrong.

On the sidewalk, I was that person, standing as others looked both ways (or not) and kept moving to their designations. I was waiting for the light to change. Waiting for it to be clear. Waiting for permission.

I see obeying the crosswalk as a rule that helps me. It’s a rule that works for me. It makes me feel safe, it makes me feel in control of my environment.

As a human, you don’t have to follow my rule.

But, as a leader, I think you need more rules.

You need rules to help you consider what work you do...

Here is Your Awesome Leader Coloring Book

leadership Aug 24, 2020

Back to School: No Supplies Needed

August feels different this year. I know you get that.

Back to school doesn't feel or look like back to school. No one is finishing up a vacation, few people are dropping college freshman off, and in California, we are already staying indoors, evading smoke, as wildfires rage around us.

I haven't even been to a Target this month, and usually I'm there at least once in August with my kids, as we check off the school supply list. The list dwindles as they age, and yet it gets more complicated. Why teachers love college-ruled composition notebooks and they are in short supply confounds me. Digging through the large cardboard display box of composition books, searching, searching, and only finding wide-ruled ones. Ahhh.

For me, the best part of going back to school was a new box of crayons, paired with a fresh notebook. I was prepared to color. Not sure what I would be coloring, but I was ready to color with the...

Managing Negativity: What to Do with the Complainer

leadership leading managing Jul 30, 2020

[Pandemic aside, there is a complainer on almost every team: the person who has a lot to say and most of it is negative. For this blog, I’m not focusing on how to tackle the constant grumbler during COVID-19 times, as I don’t think we have to treat the complainer differently during a pandemic and WFH scenario. Whether we’re wearing masks or not, WFH or not, the complainer needs to change. ]

As a manager, a huge part of your job is to work with all kinds of people, with all kinds of temperaments. An awesome manager is able to recognize and use the strengths of every employee, finding a way to make the varying skills and personalities that make up their teamwork in harmony. It feels right. It sounds right. It’s your favorite playlist and the sound and atmosphere are perfect. 

But imagine when you’re listening to someone learning to play the violin. It’s jarring, and it grates on you. And you might be next door or in a room a bit away, and...


What's in Your Emotional Baggage?

eq Jul 24, 2020
What’s in Your Pandemic Emotional Baggage?

Usually about this time of the year I’m packing or unpacking. Packing to leave for vacation or unpacking once I arrive somewhere.

Right now, I’m doing neither. I’m still dealing with baggage, though. My emotional baggage.

Several years ago, I bought this purse at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, yes, I did go through the museum before hitting the gift shop. The list of must-see art there is intimidating to get through. My favorites include Still Life with Asparagus (White asparagus! Very exotic.) and this Rembrandt self-portrait, titled, of course, Self-portrait. He is rocking a pandemic hairstyle.

Anyway, what a cool bag. An actual emotional baggage purse.

I was in Amsterdam to facilitate EQ (Emotional Intelligence) workshops for a client, so I discovered a great prop that wouldn’t take up space in my luggage...

Leadership and the Dog Days of Summer

Uncategorized Jul 15, 2020
I love to use times of the year as reasons to do things.
These things need to be accomplished anyway and the time of year doesn't really matter. For example, spring cleaning can and should be done any season. Since March my house is being used like never before, and it needs a deep cleaning every month, jeez. (Don't reply back to me that your house has never been cleaner. That's like the person who told me she was cherishing this precious time with her children. Riiight.)
Tying an action to a calendar, season, or time helps ground me. It makes me feel as if there is a reason to do things. And that makes it more likely I actually take action.  

Right now we're in the middle. The middle of the year. The middle of the summer. The middle (we hope) of the pandemic. We're at home, we're tired, we're frustrated, and all this stuff still needs to get done.

For my executive coaching clients, this middle of the summer means we work through some...

Being Approachable—When You’re Not in the Office Together

leading managing Jul 01, 2020

Before COVID-19, I had lots of ideas for leaders on how to become more approachable: how to show people that you are open to their ideas, their questions, and their visits to your office or cube. 

Back then, it was easy to hide, intentionally or not, or be “busy” in conference rooms for several hours each day. Leaders were always, it seemed, in back-to-back meetings. I know, I know: you wanted to be at your desk and be available. But it seemed impossible to be at your desk, so you could be approachable. You needed time to sit down in one place to be approachable. And then, there were business trips. More time out of the office to be in other offices—and in other conferences rooms, being busy. 

Well, it’s July 2020, and COVID-19 means huge numbers of people are working at home, away from each other, and ironically, when we do see someone, we need to create physical space between us and that person. Let’s also add in the mask factor into this...


The Mask, The Terminator, and the 98 Yr Old Leader


Focused on Wednesday. Lost on Thursday. And each afternoon feels like a Friday. 

It's hard to stay focused these days, right? I know it's not just me, as many of my coaching clients are saying the same. And my neighbors and my friends.

You might feel productive one day and then lost the next. The commute is gone, so, wow, you're "home" early, and it's nice and warm outside (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Is it a Friday? Maybe. Not sure. 

For this newsletter, I have a collection of links and ideas as well as updates on what I've been up to with Awesome Leader projects. They come together in a casual Friday-like manner. 

My thoughts captured by Others: Mentions in the The Economist (Managing Up) and Lattice (Professional Development)

"Sycophants are suffering during this pandemic."

I've read and loved The Economist for years, and my thoughts are now in it.  Sycophants are out of luck. Managing up = building and maintaining relationships...


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